The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Civil Rights Organizations Urge Biden Administration to Ban Surveillance Technology in K12 Schools

Is it justifiable for schools to receive funding for surveillance technology?

A group of more than 40 civil rights organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, urging them to take action against the use of increased surveillance technology in K12 schools. The coalition warned that such actions could lead to a dangerous escalation in the school-to-prison pipeline and the criminalization of marginalized youth, particularly Black, Brown, and Indigenous students.

According to the letter, surveillance technologies used in schools can result in greater police presence, increased police contact with students, exclusionary discipline, and school pushout. The coalition recommended that the Department of Education ban federal funds from being used for purchasing surveillance equipment that uses artificial intelligence.

To protect marginalized communities from technology-enabled rights abuses, the coalition also provided six recommendations. These included divesting discretionary agency funding from police surveillance hardware, conducting algorithmic impact audits to ensure legal compliance of AI and big data technologies, studying the risks associated with surveillance tools in public schools, and involving youth and young adults in AI data privacy governance.

While some states have taken steps to address this issue at a local level, the coalition emphasized that immediate action was needed at a national level to prevent America’s public schools from becoming spaces of increased surveillance and potential harm to students.

Sophia Reynolds

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